Separate points Chase? Drivers not big fans

September, 18, 2010

LOUDON, N.H. -- Giving the Chase drivers their own points race (first through 12th) wouldn't work.

It sounds good, but when you do the math, it doesn't change a thing. Had that idea been in place last year, Jimmie Johnson still would have won the title without much of a fight.

Unless NASCAR makes a substantial change in the number of points awarded for each position, or switches to an elimination process, it's a waste of time.

But Tony Stewart wants a 12-man points structure. Most of his fellow Chasers disagree, not that he cares.

Stewart said he believes the Chase drivers would benefit from their own points system. The top finisher of the Chase would receive first-place points (even if he finished seventh) and the worst finisher of the Chase drivers would receive 12th-place points (even if he finished 43rd).

"The fact that you can get 43rd-place points, that can kill you better than the wins can help you," Stewart said. "All it takes is one bad day and you've lost your opportunity to go to Vegas."

Only the top 10 Chase finishers are honored in the postseason awards banquet at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.

"You could go out and win four or five races, and have one bad day and lose the championship," Stewart said. "It's that simple. Until they give the 12 Chase drivers their own points structure, that's the reality you have to face."

Not really. You can have one bad day in the Chase and still win the championship, but it's difficult. But having a 1-to-12 points structure doesn't change it.

It makes the points total appear closer, but it's deceptive. Under that scenario in this system, a driver can make up only 68 points per race (the differential between first and 12th), so it's more difficult to gain ground if you're behind.

Johnson still would have won the 2009 Chase by more than 100 points over Mark Martin. The other drivers know that; they just don't think it's fair.

"If I run 43rd and the other guys are 1 through 11, I don't know I deserve 12th-place points," Carl Edwards said Friday. "Everything that you do, there would be the potential for unintended consequences."

Kevin Harvick gets fired up when asked about a Chase points system.

"You're going to get me started," Harvick said Friday. "Creating its own point system for the Chase would be a total mistake because that's not what our sport is about.

"The part of this sport that I like the most is that it requires you to race all 43 guys. That's the part that sticks out to me if you create a points championship [for Chasers] that has one or two point increments."

Actually, that doesn't work, either. Johnson still wins without much of a fight last year, even though it looks closer.

Using a points system of 12 for first and 1 point for 12th, Johnson still would have won the 2009 title by 11 points, which is the most a driver could make up in one race.

He would have gone to the final race with an eight-point lead, meaning Martin would have needed to finish seven Chase spots ahead of him to pull even. Assuming every Chaser is running up front (which happens a lot) it could make the finale a little more interesting, but not much.

"Our season is based on racing the entire field," Jeff Burton said Friday. "I feel if you finish 35th you should get 35th points. If you win the race and three people finish second, third and fourth that aren't in the Chase, but a Chase guy finished fifth, the Chase guy doesn't deserve second-place points.

"But part of me doesn't care at all because whatever the points are, it's the same for everyone."

Changing the points isn't the answer if the goal is to make the playoff closer at the end. Changing the format to an elimination system is the only way to make that happen, something I support and a plan NASCAR is considering.

Most of the drivers aren't too keen on that idea, either.

"I like the Chase format and the playoff-type system is fun," Burton said. "It's what sports are all about.

"At the same time, I like traditional body of work meaning something. I don't think we need major changes. The thing we lack is a Super Bowl. Two teams, or even four teams, at 0-0 starting out, with one race to win it all."

He just made my argument. That's what an elimination process would accomplish. But Edwards doesn't think it's necessary.

"Whatever they do, I think they should stick with it for a few years and not make any more changes," he said. "And the way it is now, the Chase already gives someone a chance to win that wouldn't have a chance otherwise."

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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